HC Deb 25 January 1993 vol 217 cc696-7
5. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is his latest estimate of the Windsor castle fire costs.

Mr. Brooke

The cost of clearing, making safe, and protecting the site will be about £1.5 million. It is too early to estimate the costs of restoration and rebuilding.

Mr. Tony Banks

When will that figure be available, because the Secretary of State was very quick to move in and to write an open cheque on behalf of British taxpayers? Does he recall my question to him on 1 December 1992, as to what attempt had been made to attract private money to help meet the cost of refurbishing and running royal palaces, which now cost about £18 million per year? Why does not the Secretary of State approach companies such as McDonalds or Euro Disney, to see whether they would put some money into refurbishment? That raises the whole question of sponsorship for the monarchy. I am sure that Crown Paints would be interested, as would Virgin Atlantic. The virgin queen is not particularly original, but at least it has a certain historical cachet. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman use his imagination, get some private money, and save the taxpayer a great big bill?

Mr. Brooke

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the breadth, scale and verve of his imagination. As to the cost of restoration, the figure of £60 million widely quoted in the press is one which the Government have never endorsed. There is no reason to suppose that the cost will rise that high. We shall make a more accurate statement as soon as we can.

Mr. Stephen

While acknowledging Her Majesty's offer to pay part of the cost of restoring Windsor castle, which is one of the most important parts of our national heritage, does my right hon. Friend agree that Her Majesty should no more be expected to pay than should my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in respect of the restoration costs of No. 10 Downing street?

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to add to my answer of a moment ago. It is clear from offers of assistance of which I am aware that an independent fund is a possibility, though I cannot add to that at this time.

Ms. Abbott

Will the Secretary of State answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) about private money being invested in royal palaces and royalty? As the Government apparently believe that private capital and know-how can energise British Rail and improve our health service, why do they stop short of putting private capital and know-how into royalty?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Lady was concentrating so much on the eloquence of the question that she was about to ask that she apparently did not hear the answer that I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen). I said then that I was aware of the possibility of a private fund being set up.

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